Wicked Weed Brewing

We don’t need to tell you that Asheville, North Carolina, is one of the best beer cities in America. Mostly because so many other sites have already said it. (Not that we haven’t gushed about its great beer, too.)

But it ain’t easy to keep up with all of the amazing new brews coming out of this southern mountain town. So we enlisted the help of Asheville’s own Walt Dickinson, head brewer and co-founder of famed Wicked Weed Brewing, to share with us some of his essential Asheville beers -- including a couple of his own.

Below are eight must-drink brews to try the next time you’re in town (or if you have a friend who’s nice enough to ship you some bottles!).

Highland Brewing Company Gaelic Ale

American Ale, 5.5% ABV
Dickinson says: “This is all Oscar Wong [founder of Highland]. It’s the beer that started it all. Without Highland and Gaelic there would be no Asheville beer scene. It’s a real easy drinking, malt-forward amber.”
Fun fact: Dickinson isn’t exaggerating about Wong being an important figure in the Asheville scene: he opened the first legal brewery in town since the repeal of Prohibition. And it’s not easy to run a brewery -- it took him eight years to break even, according to an interview in Asheville Grit. credits:"Highland Brewing Company / Facebook" width:800 align:center

Wedge Brewing Iron Rail IPA

English IPA, 7% ABV
Dickinson says: “For me, [brewmaster] Carl [Melissas] and The Wedge represents everything about the craft movement. It’s a little brewery down by the train tracks making awesome Belgian and German beers, and this great IPA. I remember drinking pitchers of it. The moment in time that this beer held -- it was such a special place in my world as far as I felt about IPA. That’s an important beer.”
Fun fact: In an interview with Beer Advocate, Melissas says he previously worked construction jobs. Considering how physical a brewmaster’s work can be, that sounds like good training for his current gig.

credits:"Green Man Brewery / Facebook" width:400 align:right

Green Man Brewery Porter

Porter, 4% ABV
Dickinson says: “When people first get into craft beer, they often drink dark beers, like Guinness and other imports. Green Man is a rich, beautiful roasty beer. As I started liking craft beer more, I got into this beer and Asheville Pizza Scout Stout. We were buying growlers of those beers and drinking them all the time.”
Fun fact: The brewery’s name has nothing to do with the It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia Green Man -- the show debuted 10 years after the brewery was founded. And yes, we mentioned that just so we could link you to a clip of Charlie as Green Man.

Wicked Weed Freak of Nature

DIPA, 8.5% ABV
Dickinson says: “Freak is the beer that started it all. When we opened the brewery, it was the only recipe we definitely wanted to make. It’s an 8.5% DIPA that’s Pliny-esque. We didn’t make a house IPA for another year and a half later.”
Fun fact: When Walt talked to us about this beer, we could hear the pride in his voice. And it’s certainly something to be proud of, because beers this big (as in an ABV of 8.5%) don’t normally go down your gullet this easily.

Burial Beer Co. Shadowclock Pilsner

Pilsner, 5.5% ABV
Dickinson says: “This beer represents the new-school pilsner, which I’m a really big fan of. It’s somewhere between the approachability and sessionability of an American light lager, but it dials up the hop-load and gives it a little chew. That balance is everything a brewer wants in a beer.”
Fun fact: Not only is the beer inside the can fantastic, but the art on it is absolutely stunning. And depressing. Warning: if you don’t like the sight of illustrated bunnies being ravaged by the cruel hands of time, do not look here.

credits:"Sam Cavenagh / Flickr" width:350 align:right

Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. Kellerweis

Kellerweis, 4.8% ABV
Dickinson says: “This is one of the most authentically produced Kellerweis [beers] I’ve ever had. It’s the benchmark of that style in America. It’s an incredible beer that’s open-fermented in [the Asheville plant]. I go there once a month to just drink a couple liters of it. It’s incredible.”
Fun fact: Technically, Sierra Nevada is a brewery from Chico, California, but ever since it opened a massive brewery / taproom / restaurant / wonderland in Asheville, it’s now a part of the NC brewing community. It’s also a must-visit in Asheville!

Hi-Wire Brewing Lo-Pitch

IPA, 4.9% ABV
Dickinson says: “This is their session IPA. A beer like this is a big part of Asheville’s lifestyle -- we’re all about playing in the mountains.”
Fun fact: For a beer that seems perfect for the outdoors, sadly, it’s only available in bottles right now. But hey -- that’s what Camelbaks are for! Who wouldn’t want to enjoy that juicy, citrusy brew on a big ole mountain?

Wicked Weed Black Angel

Sour Ale, 7% ABV
Dickinson says: “It was one of the first beers we ever made; the beer that helped us become [known] in the southeast/NC sour scene. It was a beer we made before we even opened the brewery [Editor’s note: they produced it in another brewery’s facility]. It was the thing immediately. We tapped a keg every Friday. It’s why I had to keep the program going, though I would’ve done it anyways. But everyone wanted it so bad, I had to figure out a way to make more of it. That’s what birthed the Funkatorium and the sour program. I give a lot of credit to Mike [Karnowski, former Brewmaster] at Green Man for making sour beer what it is in Asheville -- he was the first to do sours. We were the first to do it in a bigger way.”
Fun fact: Holy moly, is this beer a complex beauty. It’s a black sour ale aged in bourbon barrels with 1.5lbs of Michigan Montmorency cherries per gallon. It sits in there for nine months before the barrel gives birth to a beautiful baby beer. Do we regret using that birth metaphor? We sure do. But what’s important is that this beer offers delicious cherry pie, cocoa, graham cracker, and vanilla notes.

credits: "Wicked Weed Brewing / Facebook"

Note: Wicked Weed Brewing is a member of The High End, owned by Anheuser-Busch.